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We have received the following report from a refugee who managed to cross the border to the Netherlands.

On the night from 9th to 10th November I was in a Jewish community building so as to keep watch together with the caretaker. We had already received the first reports about destruction of Jewish homes etc. on Wednesday. That had happened in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday in Dessau, Bebra and probably in other places as well. For example we heard from directly affected eyewitnesses that in Bebra the SA had entered their house during the night and completely destroyed everything. The residents had fled to the second floor. After the work was completed they heard: “Leave the lights on, everybody line up, march!” The destruction was so complete that, for example, a car which had stood in the garage did not have a single screw left that was usable.

A Polish citizen, owner of a small shop, was warned by Aryan acquaintances that “something” was going to happen on Wednesday (9 November) in the evening at around half past 10. Since the warning was very uncertain, and we knew neither where it came from nor what would take place, it was agreed during the evening in a conversation between the rabbis, members of the community board and the C.V. that we would first of all wait and see. It was impossible to pass the message on to others because there had often been such warnings and, given the over-nervous state of our people, in the worst case it would have created a total panic without anybody actually being helped by it.

I was then on guard together with the caretaker until about 3 o’clock in the above-mentioned house. Also present were his wife and a Jewish girl, a business employee. Everything was quiet and the streets were empty. At about 2 o’clock a young man ran up to the house who, on seeing that it was dark, hesitated for a moment before going away again. I have since learned that by this time the synagogue had already been set on fire. People had gone there around half past 1, almost immediately after the conclusion of the SS swearing-in-ceremony, which had begun at midnight. The occupants (rabbis and Schammes [sexton] with families), were driven out without being allowed the chance to take their possessions with them. At the same time fire was laid in the usual way with petrol or paraffin. The ringleaders must have been the same four to six SS men who afterwards came to us. There were no arrests.

At about 3 o’clock we decided to end the watch for that night since until then everything had been quiet and we could not imagine that at such a late or rather early hour “the Volkswut would boil over”. We had just withdrawn and I was just about to have a rest when I heard a noise that I now cannot identify precisely. To be on the safe side I returned to our observation point from where we could keep an eye on the street. When I entered the room I immediately became aware of the noise of a motorbike engine. I ran to the window and saw an SA man on a motorbike whilst another emerged from the house on the other side of the road, sat himself on the pillion seat and gave the driver an address in the neighbourhood. Since both men were in uniform with chin straps lowered and a light had gone on in the house in question, it seemed very likely that the SA had been alerted. It was half past 3. After I had woken my friend we got dressed again and he positioned himself by the window so as to be able to observe what would happen. And indeed shortly afterwards an SA man emerged from the house. Meanwhile I had gone onto the street to see whether I could determine what had happened or was going to happen. I could actually see that SA men were hurrying towards an assembly point from all directions. As I walked along I saw a junior SA leader. He directed most of the men as they arrived either to get those not yet present to hurry up or to fetch them. With him stood a civilian who was complaining that it was taking too long. To which came the reply that they themselves had only been informed (apparently at the SA office) at about 3 o’clock. I assume that the civilian was a member of the Geheime Staatspolizei who had a hit list of Jewish homes and businesses.

I returned to my post and we resolved to wait further because we still really could not have known what was about to take place, and as a result could not decide on any counter-measures. Everything was quiet and the streets almost completely empty. The SA had literally been fetched from their beds for this special purpose. At about 20 minutes before 5 o’clock an older man in somewhat torn clothing showed up, looked at the house from all angles and appeared rather surprised that everything was so still and quiet here. He then went away. It occurs to me that in the town he had observed the destruction of the businesses and the fires at the synagogues, which at this juncture were already well underway, and now wanted to “take a look” at where we were.

At 5 minutes before 5 o’clock a small car drove up out of which four SS men in uniform jumped out. I recognised on one the insignia of an Obersturmbannführer (four stars, one stripe), and in what followed he gave the orders. We then ran into the home where the caretaker roused his wife and the girl.

The bell was rung briefly and there were knocks on the door. At the same time they started to smash the window panes from outside. Since I could no longer help, whilst the caretaker had to wait for his wife, I took my hat and coat and ran through the large hall to an emergency exit on the rear side of the house where I climbed over the wall. I then ran up the street and returned very slowly from a different direction as if I were going to or from my place of work. They were still busy knocking out windowpanes. Some SS men had already climbed in and were smashing the crockery that had been piled up in the kitchen ready for the washing-up as well as chairs, a table and other fittings. I ran to a telephone callbox to inform the Überfallkommando but could not get through to them because I did not have any penny on me. When I got back they were in the process of destroying everything on the upper floors. The window panes were knocked out along with the frames. I next informed the Gemeindevorstand and then phoned the Überfallkommando again from a different telephone box. It occurred to me that I did not get through to them directly but rather must have been connected via the central telephone exchange of the Polizeipräsidium. That is unusual. I then ran to meet a Jewish nurse. On the way I met an acquaintance in his car which I requisitioned for the subsequent course of events. In the meantime I had gathered from passers-by what had happened at the synagogue and the businesses. I returned with the uniformed nurse. The idea was that she would find out the fate of the Verwalter, his wife and the girl whom I had had to leave behind, and who could have been injured by the intruders. When we arrived, at first nothing could be seen of the fire. We assumed that the flames must stem from the blaze at the synagogue which lay in the same direction. However, the fire brigade then drove up. At that time the flames began to flare up. The fire had been laid in such a professional manner that the ceilings had more or less all burned through by this time. The whole building was blazing away, although there was little flammable material in it due to its modern style of construction. Also, the fact that the flames blazed especially strongly out of a library housed there, in which about 12,000 books were piled up very close together, indicated the presence of a liquid fuel; books do not otherwise catch fire and certainly not so quickly. The nurse was refused entry to the building in a very rough and crude manner and was denied any information about the fate of its inhabitants. There were still only very few spectators on the street. The work of destruction itself was carried out by six to seven SS men at the very most. I then phoned the place where we had brought the child of my friend the previous evening, and was able to find out that everyone had been able to leave the house in good health. In this context it is worth stating that nobody was directly injured or murdered where I lived. That appeared to have been the result of orders. Those arrested were certainly badly mistreated, but not at the time of arrest. In general it seems that nothing was stolen. In other places during the operation not only were many people injured, but there were also serious cases of theft.

I stayed in close touch with the rabbis, Gemeindevorstand and C.V. the whole morning. We tried to establish what and where it had all happened and was still happening, and as far as possible to help people. They were still destroying homes and shops at this point. Windows and frames were being prised out, in some cases with crowbars, sledgehammers and pickaxes, and furniture, machines and other fittings were thrown out onto the streets. In the later hours of the morning there were many spectators of course. Half the city was on the move. Many Aryans were arrested too, those who dared to give expression to their disgust about the goings on.

Around 12 o’clock I came to the conclusion that the arrests which had begun in the morning at half past 6 were happening everywhere. They were carried out by blue-uniformed police. Since any further efforts were hereby rendered meaningless, I left by train using suburban stations and local lines. In the meantime the Gestapo have already called for me three times. I then travelled right across Germany to Hamburg. Only a few large shops had been destroyed (4-6?) there. For the rest people had restricted themselves to writing "Jew" with red paint across glass panes in big letters. For the task of destruction they had alerted the pupils at a vocational school who had been told on the previous day where and when they should assemble and were then armed with crowbars. In close formation they then passed, amongst other places, the elevated railway station at Schlump. In the actual Jewish area on the Grindelallee things remained comparatively quiet. The businesses were closed, almost all were arrested. The Israelitische Krankenhaus was still intact. It was overflowing with people who had suffered nervous breakdowns. I have heard nothing of any injuries. Some doctors were arrested. The synagogues were wrecked but apparently not burned to the ground. From a reliable Aryan acquaintance I heard that an older policeman from Eimsbüttel (a district in Hamburg) had told him that they had received orders not to leave their police station for the night from Wednesday to Thursday.

In Münster all the businesses were wrecked, although only some of the private homes were entered. However some shots were fired through windows into the homes. It appears that nobody was injured directly. Here even police officers had openly expressed their horror at the way in which people had behaved. The synagogue in Münster was burned to the ground and apparently also blown up.

Things must have been particularly bad in the smaller villages of the Münsterland on the Dutch border. In Drentsteinfurt the entire Jewish population is in hospital. Similar things must have happened in Burgsteinfurt, Gronau etc. When I arrived in Münster from the railway station, by chance I heard a young woman on the street explain to a soldier in a totally outraged manner how people in one place had played along as a Jewish couple was being driven through the streets.

Mönchen-Gladbach and Aachen appear to have got off comparatively lightly as apart from the businesses only a few homes were wrecked. It goes without saying that here too almost everybody was arrested.

First I attempted to cross the border at Aachen which, however, I did not succeed in doing. I then travelled back and was able to reach Dutch soil further north. On the way I received enormous help from many people I met, both Jews and Christians.

Through very reliable Christian eyewitnesses I have meanwhile also heard that my private home, which by the morning was already wrecked, was set on fire at 3 o’clock on Thursday afternoon. In addition it was then further wrecked in the night from Thursday to Friday. The final arson attack that I know of took place on Friday morning at 8 o’clock. In all cases known to me the Feuerwehr restricted itself to ensuring that the fires did not spread. The fires themselves were not put out.

Heinz Nassau


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